Civil rights groups say no more media consolidation

[via Stop Big Media]

The House still has not moved to pass the “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s decision to allow newspapers to own broadcast stations in the same market. But this week, civil rights groups joined Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to keep the pressure on lawmakers to say no to further media consolidation and to the marginalization of communities of color in the media.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, were among nine civil rights groups that sent a letter this week to House members. They’re calling on lawmakers to support bipartisan legislation (H.J. Res. 79), sponsored by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), to invalidate the FCC’s decision last December to lift the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban.

The Senate passed its version of the resolution of disapproval in May by a near-unanimous voice vote, a margin of victory demonstrating that media consolidation is a non-partisan issue. So far, the House version has 51 co-sponsors.

The Commission claims that its vote allows a company to own a newspaper and a broadcast station only in the largest markets. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin called the rule change a minor tinkering with the cross-ownership restriction.

But civil rights groups, lawmakers and public interest groups have denounced the vote for the harm that further media consolidation would have on minority owners. People of color own just 3 percent, or 44, of the more than 1,200 full-power TV stations in this country. Rep. Waters urged her Congressional Black Caucus colleagues to support the resolution because the number of African American owners has declined from 18 to 8 – nearly 60 percent – from 2006 to 2007.

The FCC’s rule change has also been criticized for its gaping loopholes that would allow companies to easily obtain a permanent waiver to own a newspaper and broadcast station in any market in this country, regardless of its size.

Rep. Waters chastised the FCC for its lack of transparency during the ownership proceedings. She cited the agency’s failure during its vote to disclose that the rule change would grant five permanent waivers to companies operating in violation of the new rules. In one action, she noted, the Commission awarded more permanent waivers than it had during the entire 30-year history of the cross-ownership restriction.

The Senate agrees — allowing further media consolidation is simply unacceptable. It’s time that the House voted to support the resolution of disapproval.

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